On the Side of the Underdog

On the Side of the Underdog

In a modest nook office in a corporate park in suburban pasadena, where circle of relatives photographs line the bookshelves and a framed infant’s portray of a sailboat hangs on the wall, kathleen howard meredith sits amidst overflowing case files stacked on the ground. Along with her auburn hair, massive blue eyes and nice demeanor, meredith appears an awful lot more youthful than her 51 years—greater like a college student cramming for mid-time period checks than an aggressive litigator. But the piles of folders are critical business; they contain records about her state-of-the-art case, wherein a 6-12 months-old infant lost her leg. “i suppose [the leg amputation] didn’t need to take place,” meredith says. “and that i suppose i'm able to make a difference for her so that she doesn’t need to grow up traumatic approximately where her subsequent prosthetic limb comes from.” don’t be fooled by way of meredith’s first-rate exterior. Within her small, athletic body burns the ardour of an idealist and a dogged attorney who has dedicated greater than a decade to civil litigation and plaintiffs scientific malpractice, through her company, iliff & meredith. However it wasn’t always this way. Born in philadelphia, the oldest of nine children, meredith can don't forget evenings when her father divided the big circle of relatives into groups across the dining room table and gave the youngsters issues to discuss. “my father wasn’t a attorney but continually desired to be,” she says. Those first playful interactions fashioned meredith’s interest in pursuing the regulation. After graduating summa cum laude from the college of baltimore school of regulation in 1978, meredith joined one in every of the biggest corporations in maryland: semmes, bowen & semmes. She honed her competencies working for insurance businesses, overseeing mainly expert liability claims within the clinical subject, and representing doctors and hospitals in defense of clinical malpractice claims. In 1982 she left the corporate global to sign up for the civil department of the lawyer general’s office. “i was always interested by doing publicinterest paintings and that i wanted to provide lower back,” meredith recollects. The workplace turned into packed with wonderful young minds of the legal career, people who've on the grounds that long past on to turn out to be partners in huge firms and esteemed practitioners of the law, consisting of u. S. Magistrate judges susan gauvey and paul grimm, and venable’s chair, james shea. “it become a completely interesting time,” she says. “i had the possibility to assist in formulating coverage, and that i additionally had the possibility to litigate cases involving alleged failures to stick to coverage. The enjoy gave me good sized admire for those people in country authorities who're little recognized but who work so very tough to hold our nation government running easily and successfully.” as her profession blossomed, so did her family. She married timothy meredith, presently a choose in the courtroom of special appeals. Her first toddler, benjamin, become born in 1984 and shortly thereafter she lower back to semmes. In 1987 daughter patrice arrived, as did a partnership with the firm. “while the children have been small, [my husband] became primarily answerable for the physician’s visits and meeting the fridge repairman,” meredith says. “however we paintings properly collectively and are touchy to each other’s schedules. It’s an same partnership.” although meredith returned to her former position of protection legal professional, she began taking the occasional plaintiffs case—mostly instances towards the federal government below the tort claims act so that she could now not alienate her conventional purchaser base. Her first med-mal plaintiff purchaser turned into her sister, who changed into married to an military officer and went into premature labor at an remote places base with out neonatal care. A preference needed to be made: ride in a helicopter to an american-run hospital in germany, or take an ambulance to a civilian hospital in italy. Towards the expectant mother’s desires, the selection turned into made for italy. At the italian health center, the physicians have been on strike. The few to be had team of workers participants advised the mother the infant could die upon delivery. In opposition to the chances, the child lived, but the trauma turned into just beginning. Due to negligence, iv fluid leaked into the subcutaneous tissue of the little one’s leg, destroying the growth plate, and the leg turned into later amputated. She also evolved everlasting blindness from an avoidable circumstance added on by way of immoderate oxygen in her incubator. Meredith sued the u. S. Authorities. “there were plenty of problems from the plaintiff ’s point of view because the terrible pleasant of care wasn’t delivered by u. S. Personnel,” says meredith. “so [the case] turned into based totally on the switch selection.” the matter became resolved on personal phrases, and meredith’s niece, molly, is now 21 years vintage and attending university. “what that did become fuel my choice to take meritorious plaintiff cases if and while i found them,” she says. In 1995, whilst taking such instances right here and there wasn’t sufficient of a mission, meredith left to begin her very own practice with 3 other lawyers. “what i did was move the street in my scientific paintings.” her modern companion, david wildberger, changed into no longer amazed at meredith’s selection to replace groups. Wildberger began running with meredith as a paralegal when he turned into nonetheless in law college, and she or he helped him get his first job at semmes, bowen & semmes. “as soon as kathy were given worried in running on the plaintiff side, she found out that’s where she belonged,” he says. “kathy is an idealist and she has something of the crusader in her, and that i think that makes her more relaxed on the side of the underdog.” iliff & meredith is a small company, just 4 lawyers and two workforce participants, all of whom have been with the firm because it opened 10 years in the past. The employer’s length makes it more nimble than firms that need to struggle through 50 or 60 companions to determine. “we most effective take cases we agree with in,” says wildberger. It also works tough on the cases it does take. “a few lawyers have nurses on personnel or send [medical records] out for assessment. I normally do my own evaluate,” says meredith, who makes use of textbooks, medical journals and other strategies to familiarize herself with the medical issues of her cases. “i want to recognise enough about the drugs and the case so that after i touch my specialists and specialists, i'm able to talk to them knowledgeably.” meredith is short to factor out that a terrible final results does no longer malpractice make. She examines each case to determine whether or not the care furnished was steady with relevant standards and whether there is a robust connection among the error in care and the negative final results. One case she did take concerned a girl with a records of leg and back ache who advanced a herniated disk that wasn’t nicely treated and brought about paralysis. At the same time as the female regained the potential to stroll, she misplaced bowel and bladder features and lives with a bunch of other issues. The doctor’s lack of well timed reaction to the affected person’s criticism resonated with meredith. “she’s a dynamo,” says wildberger. “she’s scrupulously ethical and very aggressive. She’s a small man or woman but she movements at high speed.” he explains that meredith has taught him that a legal professional’s word is the whole thing in litigation, and to fight hard without needlessly exploiting one’s opponent. “she’s one of the maximum honest folks you can litigate in opposition to, and that i suppose protection suggest will let you know that.” dave mcmanus, a accomplice at baxter baker who has often been on the alternative aspect of the court from meredith, describes her as tenacious but professional. “she works tough for her clients but she doesn’t do so in a way that alienates different humans within the method,” he says. He has also observed her court docket methods. In one case, whilst she crossexamined his witness, she had 30 little notepad pages of questions stacked up that she went thru unexpectedly. “it changed into a protracted ordeal for the witness,” he remembers. In any other case, in her closing argument for a affected person who died, she offered her argument within the first man or woman, reliving the affected person’s dying moments. “it was theatrical,” says mcmanus, “but, i assume, powerful.” “as aggressive as i am in my litigation style, you must be even greater so at the plaintiff aspect,” meredith says. “on the defense facet, every so often an appropriate approach isn't always to push, to permit matters simmer. When you are at the plaintiff facet, you can't have the funds for that luxury.” when meredith labored as a protection lawyer, the insurance companies she represented had many reporting necessities; she nonetheless uses the ones competencies. Her customers are cc’ed on all communications and she or he frequently tests in with her clients by using cellphone. “i locate that an knowledgeable patron is usually a happy client, “ says meredith. One among meredith’s former clients (who requested to remain nameless) states that meredith become so honest and impending approximately her case, she changed into scared half of to dying. “but i knew she became properly,” the purchaser says. “i relied on her absolutely.” the consumer’s husband died at age 40 of an extraordinary heart ailment, leaving at the back of the wife and their 3 kids. Nine months later, his widow suspected some aspect of his remedy had now not been handled well and sought meredith’s suggest on the advice of her husband’s estate attorney. “[meredith] became extremely thorough, diligent and chronic,” says the purchaser. “there have been loads of roadblocks with my case, but she was constantly wonderful and had opportunity avenues to get around limitations.” the case took nearly three years to get to court and acquired a positive verdict after a -week trial. However the widow states that it wasn’t about cash; it became about principle, something she feels meredith understood and revered. “all through the whole process, you could tell that she had our quality hobby at coronary heart,” she states. “no amount of money brings your loved one back. These doctors needed to know that what they did was incorrect.” because the coronary heart ailment the patient suffered from was so uncommon, there have been few cases for meredith to consult, and the medication become complex. “however at the cease of the day we got a very good verdict for the consumer that has enabled her to take care of her children inside the manner she would have had her husband survived,” she says. When she isn’t operating 10- to 12-hour days in her office, meredith may be located volunteering in young people programming at woods memorial presbyterian church. She is also at the board of the maryland volunteer attorneys services agency, which provides felony offerings to the operating bad. At some point, she would love to go back to her public-service roots. “as soon as the kids are absolutely educated, i need to provide back in a extra meaningful, direct manner,” says meredith, who could recollect appearing as a court docket-appointed special suggest or working as a volunteer presenting counsel to the aged. No matter what her future holds, she will in no way stop fighting for the underdog. “the hardest part is figuring out there are some human beings i can’t help and that almost always, people who i can help i will’t help completely,” says meredith. “because cash can never update a leg, a wife, a son.”